Alumni Spotlight: Sabrina Fruci C’15, Associate at J.P. Morgan

Sabrina Fruci is currently an Associate at J.P. Morgan in Securitized Product Origination with a focus in the Auto and Equipment sectors. While at J.P. Morgan, Sabrina has had the opportunity to work on a number of transactions for some of the top issuers in the Auto and Equipment ABS space. Prior to joining J.P. Morgan, Sabrina worked as an Investment Banking Analyst at RBC Capital Markets in the Financial Institutions Group. During her time at Drew, Sabrina served as a founding member and CIO of the Fund, President of DEBS, President of ODE, an Economics and Italian tutor, a peer mentor, a research assistant for the Economics department, co-host of a weekly finance radio show on WMNJ, a member of the Baldwin Honors Program, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Sabrina participated in the Spring 2013 Wall Street Semester program, the Summer 2013 International Seminar to Brussels and London, and served as the Teaching Assistant for the Spring 2015 Wall Street Semester program. She also has had the privilege of speaking to groups of students during the Spring and Summer Wall Street Semester program sessions. Sabrina graduated summa cum laude from Drew in May 2015 with a dual degree in Economics (Honors) and Italian Studies, completing an honors thesis on the securitization of celebrity brands. Currently, Sabrina is a board member for the Juventus Official Fan Club of Empire State, a volunteer with the New York Junior League, and a founding member of the Drew University Business & Finance Affinity group for alumni.

SABRINA AT DREW

Sabrina was born and raised in NJ and was attracted to Drew for a variety of reasons such as Drew’s proximity to NY, its depths of programs, and her acceptance into the Honors program. The key decision maker for Sabrina to join Drew was the excellence of the Economics program and the classes at Drew.  While her family only lived ½ hour away, she wanted the full college experience and chose to live on campus.  Her parents own a small business, which inspired her interest in business at a young age. As she googled, “What do CEO’s major in?” and economics came up, it confirmed that this was the right major for her.  Sabrina said, “At Drew I learned what it means to be an economist.”  Her family and Italian professor convinced her to also add Italian as a major, which she feels was a good decision.  She is on the Board of the Juventus Official Fan Club of Empire State, a fan club for the Italian soccer team Juventus, and has many opportunities to use her Italian through this group.  Having that major also exposed her to many great courses in the liberal arts that have improved the quality of her life. The courses she took in European history and art history have made her more recent visits to the Met an even more enriching experience. Sabrina feels that learning a second language is incredibly valuable in business and in one’s personal life.

Her interest in economics grew after a freshman seminar on financial crises with Prof. Sarolli (now an economist at Bank of America.) He looked at the dot-com bubble, housing crisis, the Asian financial crisis, and the crisis in the 80’s to help students understand what drove these events.  They were different, yet similar in many ways and it was interesting for Sabrina to learn how the markets reacted in each instance. Sabrina said, “Learning about the financial crisis, and every other class I took in Economics increased my interest more and more.  Economics just clicked in me and made so much sense where nothing else had before. Also, Drew’s Economics department faculty are amazing!  I know I’m being biased but I think it’s the best department on campus.  I also worked in the department for 3 ½ years.  It was and still is a strong family and community.”.

Sabrina had two professors as mentors, who are no longer at Drew: Prof. Marc Tomljanovich and Prof. Giandomenico Sarolli. She said, “They were two professors who I was very close with during my time at Drew. They had a huge impact on my development over those four years and I’m truly grateful to the both of them for their time and efforts to try and make me the best Economics student I could be. I initially met Professor Sarolli at an accepted students’ day and after meeting him was more convinced of my decision to come to Drew. He was my main academic advisor as well as my thesis advisor. I also worked really closely with Prof. Jennifer Kohn particularly outside the classroom as the advisor for the Drew Economics & Business Society (DEBS.)  She was super involved and generally a great person.  She was tough but also really fair.  She would push you to really understand why you had a certain view or had a particular career path in mind to help you discover what the right choice would be for you. She would say, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, back it up with facts.”  She would give you quips and life lessons that you could carry with you beyond college.  Other mentors at Drew were all the alumni who helped me, reviewed my resume, gave me advice, helped me with interviews, etc.  I’m still in touch with most of them today. All of those alums were also there for me in that difficult transition from college to working life.  It was an adjustment but having that community to support me and help me successfully progress through it, meant everything.”

Some of Sabrina’s favorite memories of Drew, include, The Semester on Wall Street, studying abroad in London and Brussels, starting up the Student Investment Club, and writing her senior thesis.  Another highlight was being involved with the Economics Department. She said, “I was very close with the faculty and due to my heavy involvement in the student organizations, I was even able to attend some faculty meetings. This close relationship over my four years at Drew was a very a unique experience.  What’s great about Drew is the experiences and opportunities are there if you want to grab them.  I think one of the funniest moments was during my senior year when Prof. Sarolli was running the Wall Street program.  As a joke, I applied and knowing Prof. Sarolli was a big fan of the show “How I Met Your Mother”, I submitted a full application in that style with quotes from the show.  Stacy Fisher from the Off-Campus Programs Office brought it to his attention and he got a kick out of it.  I ended up being T.A. for the program that year.  I’ve been to the New York Stock Exchange four times, met the CEO of the Stock Exchange and even Robert Downey Jr. was at the Exchange during one of my visits. Other highlights were when I was given other opportunities to do more.  There were times when Prof. Sarolli couldn’t be there and he let me, as T.A., take over the class when meeting with alumni onsite at their various offices in the city. Stepping in was an honor. It was through my time at Drew that I really found myself.  One of the great things about Drew is that it provides students an atmosphere and a community of support to help them find themselves. Through all these experiences, I found out who I was, developed my leadership abilities and the initiative to do new things. The Economics department meant a lot to me because I was part of that community with them. I still am today.”

SABRINA AND FINANCE

How did you determine what area of finance or banking was the best fit for you?

Finance is such a broad industry. The longer you’re in it, the more you learn about different jobs and opportunities in this field. One day I was coming home on the train and I was trying to narrow down what I wanted to do so I made a list of finance jobs based on a very preliminary search. Based on this search, investment banking and hedge funds seemed the most interesting to me.  The Semester on Wall Street at Drew also helped answer some questions, such as what type of firms and jobs I preferred over others. For example, I realized compliance wasn’t my cup of tea.  In the spring of my sophomore year, I was connected to an alum who worked at RBC Capital Markets (investment banking.) He introduced me to investment banking, told me about their intern program and the early deadlines with it.  Investment banking really seemed like something I wanted to do. I liked the idea of helping companies and doing something that had an impact. I also liked the idea that if, for example, you helped raise money for Ford for them to conduct research and development. In 3 to 4 years, if they come out with a new model car based on that R&D, you can feel as though you played a part in making that happen. I also ended up interning at a Hedge Fund that summer.  While that was also an interesting area, it wasn’t really the right fit for me.  In my internship at RBC, I was placed on a team that was focused on capital markets and I got a full-time offer after graduating. While I enjoyed that experience, I decided I wanted to go the more traditional investment banking route.  A year later, I realized I wanted to get back to the work I was doing where I interned.  I learned I really enjoyed the capital markets side of the business, as it’s a little bit of banking while also being more market oriented, as you are creating new securities that come to market.  I really liked that aspect of finance.

THE TAYLOR SWIFT THESIS (Official title: “The optimal pricing model in securitizing the revenue streams of famous individuals.”)

I did my honors thesis on creating a new class of securities backed by celebrities. It was great that the Economics department supported this unconventional thesis.  We rephrased my research question and were able to build a paper around it. I ended up creating a new securitization model in the process. It’s an idea that I was really excited about and it was the culmination of my time in academia.  I always tell students to write their honor’s theses about something they are really excited about.  A little over a year after I graduated, I was interviewing for my job at J.P. Morgan and I brought in an 8-page primer version of my thesis to the interview.  I told my interviewer that I wanted to make the switch from where I was to J.P. Morgan because of my thesis. It was a memorable interview because I talked about Taylor Swift and I got the job!  I’m really proud of that thesis. I was able to do something really cool, think outside of the box, be really creative, and was able to carry it with me after graduating.  A year and a half after I initially defended my thesis, I was able to leverage that work to further progress my career.  Even now it’s still a conversation piece.  It was such a fun topic and I got so much support from the department on it. It’s a testament to the Econ faculty. It was kind of our last hurrah. If someone is interested in reading it, it’s available in the Archives.  Presenting an honors thesis is a great experience and I was even able to share that moment with my friends, family, and other students who presented their theses that year.  It speaks well of Drew that they foster a supportive community where people come together to cheer each other on.  I hope more students take advantage of this opportunity.  It took me 2 years to complete and I was able to incorporate the work from my econometrics class and the qualitative aspects from my History of Marketing class. At first I thought my thesis was about owning a unique asset but in reality it’s about the value and importance of a brand. I was trying to quantify what was deemed unquantifiable.  At the end of the day, someone’s brand has so much value.  That’s my biggest takeaway that I still carry with me.  Any time I do anything whether I’m representing Drew or my firm, I represent both wherever I go.  I’m proud to be able to represent both Drew and J.P. Morgan.

You did internships in Finance every summer when you were at Drew.  I’m sure our students would love to know –  how did you get those internships?

My first internship was paid at a local financial advisory office.  It was offered to me by friends of my parents the summer after I graduated high school. My parents happened to mention that I was hoping to pursue finance in college and they were happy to give me this opportunity in their office.

As a freshman at Drew the Career Center had a presentation on internships and my peer mentor at the time wanted to make sure I had an internship lined up.  This mentor worked in the city for a political and non-profit fundraising firm with an alumna and helped set up an interview for me and I was hired. It was a great experience. That interaction inspired me to be a peer mentor for 2 years which was also a rewarding experience.  Another bonus was that Drew provided funds to cover commuting expenses and I was also able to get credits for this internship.

The summer after sophomore year there was an alum relationship through a Hedge Fund. I interned for a few weeks in the city and it gave me another unique perspective on another potential avenue for my career.

Then the summer after my junior year, another Drew alum helped get me an internship at RBC Capital Markets. Other than my first internship after high school, all of my internships were acquired through relationships with Drew alums.  I tell students, even if the internship is not exactly what you think you may want, you need experience to get experience, so get that experience under your belt.  Talk to people because you never know where that opportunity will come from.  It might be someone connected to a parent, a cousin, someone who is a friend of a friend, or an alumnus, especially a Drew alum.  Someone encouraged me to reach out to an alum who wasn’t necessarily in the field I wanted to pursue but that alum introduced me to his wife, who was a great connection and resource.  If I had not reached out to him, I wouldn’t have had that great connection. Drew alums usually want to help Drew students because someone had helped them out at one point. You don’t lose anything by sending off a quick LinkedIn message to say, “I’d love to talk to you to get some advice.” People love talking about themselves.  Meet people halfway with baseline expectations. Students should be aware that they should not ask for a job or internship.  It’s easier to network and build relationships when you’re in college. When I was trying to switch jobs and make a transition, I was reaching out to alums, and the initial conversation was less awkward, it was more “I’d like to catch up” and less “I really need something.” Once you’ve established those contacts, those catch ups are so important to keep the dialogue going.  That is why Alumni events are great. If you’re on a level playing field, it’s easier to ask for advice or a favor because they know they can also come to you as well.  Business/Finance alums created the Business and Finance Affinity group for alums where we have events and we can reconnect and help each other.  We have such a great community and thanks to these events, it’s even easier to stay in touch.

You were extremely active on campus, how do you feel these activities, specifically your leadership experiences, helped you in your career?

From a day to day logistics perspective it’s really good to be able to manage multiple things, learn how to communicate with larger groups of people, deal with alum, etc., and I had that exposure early on.  From a personal perspective, I realize part of my success at Drew came from being so involved in many different things. Those extracurricular experiences continue to impact how I live my life.  After I switched jobs and I moved to the city, I was settled in and I felt that I needed to be more involved in other things. I joined the Juventus Fan Club and the NY Junior League.  Someone once told me in college, “your career is for what you’re good at, and your hobbies are for your passions.”  Your job is your job.  There are parts you’re really going to enjoy and parts you may not enjoy, but you have to do it. I think what helps with your job is to see the value in what you do every day and expanding your skills and knowledge. My extracurricular activities are a great outlet.  It’s also something I bring to the table at work which is different. This is something that a liberal arts education gives you. It creates a well-rounded life, helping you use the other parts of your brain. Those activities at Drew taught me the importance of those experiences.  I also just like to do things and keep busy.  From a leadership perspective, when possible I try to take ownership at work and I think I’ve been successful with this. I learned from those experiences at Drew, whether I was tutoring or running events, all those skills have helped me in so many ways. Post college, those experiences keep you sane and help you live that more well-rounded life.

Tell me about your work with J.P. Morgan.

Currently I’m in Securitized Product Origination in the investment bank at J.P. Morgan.  I focus on auto loan, auto lease, and equipment financing in the scope of securitized products.  Similar to the mortgage backed securities related to the 2008 crisis, my team works to create a very similar product but instead of mortgages, it’s backed by payments made on auto or equipment financing.  Working in investment banking led me to this position and opened a lot of doors. That first experience at RBC, though not the right job for me, helped me to get to where I am today and taught me a lot of valuable career and life lessons.

Has Covid affected your industry/your job?

Initially our market got a little crazy.  There was a couple of weeks where there was no new issue activity. Then the market had to readjust.  We were wondering if this was another 2008.  It was a little scary but then things stabilized and the industry as a whole generally experienced a strong quarter.  Most of us are working from home and made that transition well.  The other big consideration and impact of COVID is how this impacted our clients and their customers. We spent a lot of time understanding how our clients were reacting to the events around COVID and the overall response from their customers. Our market is still stabilizing.  People have taken lessons from 2008 and implemented things to help the markets continue to function.  It’s hard to tell at this stage what the longer-term impact of COVID will be, we may not really know until the end of the year at the earliest. Everything is still up in the air. The biggest concern for many across the country is getting people back to work particularly those who can’t work from home.  Some businesses, like my parents’, can’t function remotely so they had to make adjustments. We all have to make those adjustments to get the economy up and running again.

What do you think is the key to your success in your field?

Part of it comes out of how I was raised.  My parents are the hardest working people I know.  Even now I don’t think I work as hard as they do. They are on their feet, 7 days a week. They came to this country, learned a new language, and built a business.  Their work ethic and sacrifices make me even more appreciative for the opportunities I have today.  While I sometimes need to work late nights or on the weekend, I know what a huge blessing it is to have this job and I am so grateful to work every day at a place like J.P. Morgan.  Some people say you have to be lucky in life and a lot of people say timing is everything. I think you have to be lucky and timing helps, but if you don’t work hard, it doesn’t matter. When I was introduced to that alum from RBC in the spring of my sophomore year, I had been doing all the right things, I was active on campus, had good grades, internships, etc.  When the opportunity came, it worked out but only worked out because I worked hard.  I also keep level headed when things get really chaotic, I try to keep organized and focused.  I am a big proponent of reducing and alleviating unnecessary stress because life presents enough stress as it is. I think this is what helps me remain calm under pressure or more hectic times at work.  Foundations are also extremely important to establish to lead a successful life. A key to my success started in my high school.  I went to an all-girls catholic high school whose motto was empowering young women.  That idea of empowerment, of owning what you do, laid a good foundation for me and is something I leveraged at Drew.

ADVICE FOR STUDENTS

What advice would you give a student who is interested in working in finance?

Start talking to people early and get those internships under your belt.  Grades are important.  When I was being selected for interviews, one of the talking points of my resume was my 3.95 GPA.  An employer will receive a lot of great candidates but if they have two similar resumes, they will likely hire the person with the higher GPA.  Also, remember if you don’t believe in yourself, no one will.  Fake it until you make it.  Realize that you bring something to the table. I believe if you work hard and make an effort, things will work out and you will reap the rewards.  Be the hardest worker in the room. When I came to Drew, I hit the ground running without fully realizing it. You’re only at Drew for 4 years and it’s going to fly by fast.  There are students that have internships lined up with J.P. Morgan the summer before their junior year. These programs are starting earlier and earlier.  I’ve had networking calls with students in high school asking how do I get a banking job?  There are certain programs you can be eligible to apply for your freshmen and sophomore year but no one tells you about it.  Leave no stone unturned.  The worst response you will receive is a no or no response at all.  Reach out to people and say, “I am xyz, can we chat?”  I think it’s that simple.  Don’t overthink it and get to networking early on.  I talk to too many students the summer after their junior year and they are looking to get into a role at a bank.  It’s going to be hard to get that job if you wait too long.  College can be an overwhelming experience. There is less structure than high school but don’t let it distract you.  Go to class, get good grades, build your relationships with faculty and the Career Center. It was my involvement with the Career Center that led to my connections with alums that led to internships. You have to keep pushing.  That’s the environment we are in now.  You have to put your game face on and do what you can do to build your network and take advantage of the resources available to you.  We now have technology and it’s so easy to network on LinkedIn.

FUN QUESTIONS

If you could try any other career other than your own, what would it be?

I would love to be a History professor and would focus on European history or I’d work in a management role for a soccer team.

If you could travel anywhere tomorrow where would you travel to?

Italy. I was supposed to go to Italy for a Juventus game this past April. I always wanted to go to Torino, especially to see the stadium and attend a game.  The fan club I’m involved with has a good relationship with the club and we were going to get a tour of the facilities along with other really great experiences.  We will try the trip again when things are better.

Fun Fact (s)

I have two fun facts. First, I’m a dual citizen with Italy.  Second, through one of the Juventus sponsors, I was featured on the video screens around the stadium for the final home games of this past season.

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